Bluetooth at heart of US petrol station credit-card scam

It's not known if the petrol-pump skimming operation involves insiders or not

Thieves are stealing credit-card numbers through skimmers they secretly installed inside pumps at gas stations throughout the US Southeast, using Bluetooth wireless to transmit stolen card numbers, says law enforcement investigating the incidents.

"We've sent detectives out to every gas station within a mile of Interstate-75," says Lt. Steve Maynard, spokesman for the Alachua County Sheriff's Office, which last Thursday was first notified about a suspicious skimming device discovered by a maintenance worker at a Shell Station located in the vicinity of Gainesville, Florida. So far, three card-skimming devices hidden in gas pumps at three stations have been discovered by the Alachua County Sheriff's Office, and the U.S. Secret Service has been notified as part of the gas-pump card-skimming investigation.

Researchers unsheathe new tool to battle botnetsThe Sheriff's Office, along with other local police departments, are trying to inspect as many gas stations in the area as possible, especially focusing on those along I-75. But law enforcement is encouraging gas station operators to look for signs of the skimmers at their pumps and contact them if they think they've found something. The Secret Service has indicated there's a crime wave throughout the Southeast involving the gas-station pump card skimmers, and it may be traced back to a single gang that may be working out of Miami, Maynard says.

Nearby St. Johns County in Florida has also been hit by the gas-pump card skimmers. Maynard says criminals wanting to hide the credit-card skimmers in gas pumps have to have a key to the pump, but in some cases a single key will serve to get into many gas pumps. It's not known if the gas-pump skimming operation involves insiders or not. Law enforcement is encouraging gas-station operators to train video surveillance they may use on the pumps.

The particular card-skimmers seen in Alachua County have put together devices with computer components and in this case, a Bluetooth wireless capability to easily send the card information to the thieves. It's not yet known how many credit cards may have been stolen by means of the skimmers and fraudulently used. The investigation is "ongoing," Maynard says. "We're nowhere near closure. We wish we were."

Read more about wide area network in Network World's Wide Area Network section.

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Ellen Messmer

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